all images: Jannis Kounellis exhibition at Blain|Southern, Berlin; photo copyright artfridge
The material of tar pitch is extremely viscous - it is so viscous, that it was used to torture people and therefore reached a negative connotation in the German language: "Pech" suggests bad luck. In Jannis Kounellis current show at Blain|Southern in Berlin, the black substance emblematically hovers above the artworks, regardless of its brutality and its comfortless severity.
For the 1936-born Kounellis, steel and coal - multiply employed in the greek artist's solo show - assume the roles of a basis of modern society. Their heaviness is outweighted by simple black worker-jackets, which are nailed to steel frames or laid in a serpentine pattern around four circles of coal sacks. This connection instantly evokes a notion of labour, but the jackets similarly represent an anonymous figure - a shell that lost its inside.
Opposed to the jackets on steel frames, Jannis Kounellis re-introduces Kazimierz Malewicz's manifesto and positioned several black painted canvases in different sizes, measured after paintings of famous masterpieces by Goya or Caravaggio. Above each painting, the artist placed long steal beams hanging on steel bars, each carrying a long knife on a butcher's hook. The same hooks are used in the wall installation at the end of the gallery, carrying black jackets folded into a ball of textiles.
The non-colour black is not only visually apparent, but it becomes, as curator Rudi Fuchs translates for Jannis Kounellis, "the topic, the leitmotif". Art, as Fuchs explains, needs to be "terrible", it is not beautiful. But however aggressive, brutal and even viscous Kounellis black-in-black exhibition might seem, it certainly doesn't lack beauty.
until the 26th of January 2013
Potsdamer Straße 77–87
Opening Hours: Tues - Sat: 11.00 – 18.00
all images: Jannis Kounellis exhibition at Blain|Southern, Berlin; last image: curator Rudi Fuchs (l.) and Jannis Kounellis at Blain|Southern, Berlin; photo copyright artfridge